The longest and the most exciting 9 kms drive of our lives!

Be advised, there is no evidence for the below encounter during our road trip 7, other than 4 eyewitnesses (including me) who were in the car, when this happened. No, we did not see a ghost! This may or may not be about an encounter with an elephant :). “Won’t say anything irrelephant!” (line borrowed!)

jeep safari in mudumali forest, masinagudi

As I had mentioned in the previous post about that we hired a guide and went around the Mudumalai forest. We were in his jeep, he was driving around. We were going slowly looking for wild animals and I spotted a tusker. It was huge and was feeding on bamboo leaves or shoots. It must have been 75 mtrs (I’m bad with calculating distances just by seeing but I just figured that Usain Bolt might have taken less than 10 seconds and more than 5 seconds to reach that Elephant from where we were, so it must have been 75 mtrs. :)). The vegetation was thick around it and in the silence of the evening we could hear the echoing sounds of the elephant breaking the bamboo. IT WAS LOUD and of course, scary.

I’ve seen elephants in temples and circuses before, but seeing them in their natural environment and knowing that we are in its territory adds a whole new dimension to fear/adrenaline. It was big and tall, of course all elephants are, that’s what we thought, but this was really tall. All of us peeped out of the jeep to take a look at this majestic beast. The vegetation was thick, so could not get any good shots with the cam. So there we were, on the road, few meters away from this beast crushing bamboo with such ease that it sends down a chill even to recollect that sighting.

We were there for close to 10 minutes when we decided to move on and see more animals. We went around for couple of hours sighting the usual wild animals -wild boars, bisons, “wild hens”, monkeys, deer,  peacocks and some more elephants.

bison sighting in mudumalai

mudumalai forest road, masinagudi

The sun had set and we turned back to return to Masinagudi. On those roads, we are not allowed to drive after 9PM, as the traffic disturbs the wildlife.  We had our car, Ford Figo, parked in Masinagudi and we were supposed to drive back to Moyar (9 kms from Masinagudi), where we were staying.

So I asked a question to our guide, “have there been any elephant-sightings on the Masinagudi-Moyar road?”, a “yes” or a “no” would have sufficed but he chose to say “Oh, that road is known for a lot of sightings and incidents!!”. Ahem! “incidents??” I asked and he spoke in detail about his 3 encounters with elephants. We (4 of us) asked him what the “to-do’s” were if we came up against an elephant.

These are the things the guide told us:

  • If you are in a car/vehicle, DO NOT get out of it. Stay in it.
  • If it is night time and you have the headlights on, do not turn them off, if you are against a elephant. Logic was that the bright light will irritate the elephant and it will get back in the vegetation and one can drive past.
  • If the elephant charges you, rev the car, and move slowly TOWARDS the elephant.
  • The elephant might come real close but will not dare touch the vehicle. (note: of course there are incidents when things have gone bad, but those poor chaps didn’t have any luck, I guess)
  • Do not try to drive past it, the elephant may turn your way and given its strength can topple a car.

So we memorized all the tips. Already Sandeep thought of a headline that might come in the next day’s newspaper: 4 bachelors killed by an elephant. One from Germany, one from IIT, one from Singapore and then one from namma Chennai. We all laughed, nervously!

We reached Masinagudi. Till then everyone wanted to drive, but not this time. Andy didn’t want to drive. My condition was either I will drive or sit at the back. Deepak also wanted to drive. So, Deepak drove, Andy was riding shotgun, Sandeep and I sat at the back.


Certain things about human mind:We seek to encounter certain dangerous experiences, for the rush of adrenaline. At the same time we don’t want to die for that experience. We want some sort of a controlled exposure to danger. ex: Bungee jumping – you want the thrill of jumping off a cliff but don’t want to die, so you tie a rope around you and jump – controlled!

Similarly, that day, part of us wanted to encounter an elephant and the rest of us wanted to get home alive to live to tell the story.

Without further ado:

We drove through the winding, narrow, dark roads with humps. The roads were very well designed. NOT!!. If at all it was well designed, it was designed for people to be killed. No, no, I’m sure the engineers did not want to disturb the wildlife, after all we were encroaching their homes. But we had some problems with the road. Winding roads – We couldn’t see past more than 75 meters. Meaning, if we spot an elephant, we had very little time to react. Roads were narrow – if an elephant had to be crossing the road, the length of the elephant would block the entire width of the road. Roads were dark – of course, it’s a forest! but elephants blend in with dark very well. Roads had humps, WHY, WHY?? So one could’t drive really fast if one is being chased by a wild animal?? Nevertheless, we were on the road that destiny had destined for us! – yes, we were very nervous. The car was filled with nervous laughter and every turn we took on the road, we expected to see an elephant. Every huge tree at the edges of the road, seemed like a leg of an elephant. We drove and we drove and we turned and slowed for humps and we turned and there in the darkness was a elephant crossing the road. AN ELEPHANT, 50 meters in front of us!! It was huge, tall, dusty and alone (or part of a herd that had already crossed or about to cross)! There was silence in the car, Deepak braked well – no screech sound! It was right in the middle of the NARROW road. There was no way for us to go. It stood there for 3 or more seconds, perhaps trying to understand what the bright lights were. We did not switch off the headlights. We shrieked (not very loud) and we held our breath. It slowly turned, but away from us, aligning itself to the road. It went to the edge of the road and Deepak decided to rev past it. As he drove past it, not very far from it, it started to turn its head, slowly. We had revved past it by that time and we looked back, it was only darkness. phew! We shouted with relief but we had to drive 3 more km to reach our guest house. We drove and there was nothing more than that one experience.

After reaching our place of stay, we heaved a big sigh of relief and spoke about the experience. In retrospect, one of us should have had the video recording ON through those 9 km. Nevertheless, it was an experience that none of the 4 would ever forget.


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